The Good, the Bad and the Season Opener

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(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes)

by Jocelyne LeBlanc, Special to All Habs Hockey Magazine

MONCTON, NB. — After having to patiently wait through a lockout which took nearly half the season, it was nice and exciting to see the Montreal Canadiens back in action on Saturday, January 19th against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Their opening ceremony was in my opinion the highlight of the night. Their “Raise the Torch” theme had former Canadiens captains pass a lit torch to one another which started in the crowd with Yvan Cournoyer passing it to Henri Richard, to Vince Damphousse, then Serge Savard and finally Jean Beliveau. Beliveau then brought the torch to ice level where he passed it to current captain Brian Gionta. The torch was then given to each player on their current roster as soon as their names were announced. Montreal’s first round draft pick, Alex Galchenyuk, received a warm welcome by fans just minutes before playing in his first ever NHL game. You could definitely tell that hockey fans were excited to see the beginning of the long awaited NHL season, as the pumped up crowd at the Bell Centre showed definite enthusiasm and excitement for their home team.

 (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes)
(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes)

The momentum quickly changed as Ryan White received a penalty within the first minute of the game for goaltender interference. That was only the first of a penalty-filled night for both teams. Not even three minutes later, Erik Cole received a hooking penalty, and what a harsh penalty that was, as Nazem Kadri took advantage of their second power play and put the Leafs ahead 1-0. In fact, all three goals that night were scored on the power play. Tyler Bozak made it 2-0 for the leafs while Tomas Plekanec was serving two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct. Gionta then put the Canadiens on the board during a power play in the third period that had Mikhail Grabovski sitting in the box for a slashing penalty. But that wasn’t enough as the Canadiens lost the season opener to the Maple Leafs by a final score of 2-1.

Although nobody plans on watching their favorite team lose, there were some exciting aspects of the game. Like I mentioned before, they put on an amazing opening ceremony. The incredible ovations the entire team received were very heart warming; especially when Galchenyuk, Francis Bouillon and head coach Michel Therrien were introduced. And seeing some former Canadiens captains was certainly a treat for all fans. I was also really looking forward to seeing a good hockey fight. I predicted that White would be the first Canadiens player to get into a scrap, but Brandon Prust stepped up to the plate first. At the 7:00 mark of the first period, Prust dropped the gloves with Leafs tough guy Mike Brown. I must say I was pretty impressed with that fight. Prust sure made his presence known with his new team.

Here’s a bit of trivia for all you Habs fans: When was the last time the Canadiens played their season opener on home ice? It was in 1999-2000. They lost 4-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Canadiens faced the Leafs in the last four season openers, with Toronto winning the last three encounters. But the Habs have four more opportunities this season to defeat the Leafs with their next meeting being on Saturday, February 9th in Montreal. It should be an exciting game to say the least.

The Canadiens’ second regular season game will be played tonight, January 22nd at 7:30pm Eastern Time against the visiting Florida Panthers. The Panthers have played two games so far this season and have a record of 1 win and 1 loss. Montreal and Florida faced each other four times last season with the Panthers winning all four games. I’m looking forward to seeing Alex Kovalev back at the Bell Centre. After spending four full seasons with the Canadiens from 2005-2009 (plus twelve games with them in 2004), Kovalev faced his former team twelve times since (11 games with Ottawa and 1 game with Pittsburgh) and recorded 7 points.

GO HABS GO!!!

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